By Nick Diamantides
Val Lerch may not be a member of the Long Beach City Council any longer, but don’t expect him to disappear from the local political scene any time soon. “I plan to continue what I have been doing for the past almost 20 years of my life,” he said. “I will do whatever I can to influence the decisions that are made by the City, and to bring improvements to the North Long Beach community.”
Lerch was the city’s vice mayor and council member for the 9th District, until about two weeks ago, when Steven Neal, who won the election last April, was sworn in as Lerch’s replacement.
Almost immediately after his tenure on the council expired, Lerch was re-elected as a member of the North Project Area Committee (North PAC)– the citizens group that advises the Long Beach Redevelopment Agency (RDA) on projects the agency undertakes in North Long Beach.
Lerch had been a member of North PAC for several years and was the vice chair of that committee when he ran for city council in 2002. He was next in line to be chair but declined that position and resigned from the group in order to wage his election campaign eight years ago.
Now that he is back as a member of North PAC, Lerch says he plans to be very involved in keeping lines of communication open between the RDA and North Long Beach residents to make sure the agency’s projects meet the needs and reflect the wishes of the community as much as possible.
“The biggest agency project in North Long Beach right now is the development of the North Village,” Lerch said. “It’s at the point now where we are trying to get the design together and approved by the community.” He explained that the planned development had had an approved design, but it had to be scrapped because of the economic recession. “Now we’re back to step one in terms of coming up with a design,” he said. “We want to make sure it’s done right so we don’t just get another strip mall.”
Lerch is also a member of the North Long Beach Community Action Group. He helped found that group in 1993 but resigned from it as well when he was first elected in 2002. “CAG is mostly a neighborhood association of community activists,” he said. “Sometimes projects come up that we have to rally behind and support.” He added that CAG sometimes opposes proposed plans that its members feel would not be in the best interests of the community. The group, according to Lerch, also organizes clean-ups of neighborhoods and business corridors. “We also paint addresses in the alleys so that police officers, firefighters and paramedics can quickly recognize an address from the alley,” he said.
For many years, Lerch has served on the board that organizes the North Long Beach Veterans Day Parade. He had been the city council representative on that board until two weeks ago, but now he is a citizen member. He is also a member of the Board of U Vets at the Village at Cabrillo. “I’ve been on that since I was on the council,” he said. “I am also going to stay on the board of Academic Uprise.” That organization provides mentors to kids in middle school and high school. “We help kids who are having difficulties passing the high-school exit exam,” he explained.
Volunteering his time with five organizations that are actively working to improve the quality of life in Long Beach keeps Lerch quite busy, but he also has to work for a living. “I am a consultant for one firm right now, and that job just barely pays the bills,” he said. “I am looking for a full-time job anywhere from public affairs, government liaison, to my trained profession of real-estate management.” He added that ideally he would like to put his eight years of expertise as an elected municipal official to use as a field representative for an elected official. “That would be the job I really want,” he explained.
For many years, Lerch has lived in North Long Beach with Janet, his wife of 39 years. She suffers from multiple sclerosis. “She is doing as well as can be expected with the disease,” he said. “She is confined to a wheelchair but still working. That surprises a lot of people, but that is just the spirit of the woman.” The couple has two grown children, Vicki and Tony, and two grandchildren.
“I have lived in Long Beach since 1969 and, anytime I can make a difference in the community, I will continue to do so,” Lerch said. “I love North Long Beach, and I hope we can continue to make great improvements to the quality of life here.”
By Nick Diamantides